Downtown motorists and pedestrians clamoring for the re-opening of Ringling Boulevard from Orange Avenue to the bayfront can circle June 15 on their calendars.
Ringling roundabouts project manager Neil Gaines said the road and the roundabouts being constructed on Ringling Boulevard at Pineapple Avenue and Palm Avenue will be open no later than June 15. With any luck, Gaines said the roundabouts and the road could open sooner.
Construction crews have completed 95% of the concrete work involved with shaping the roundabouts and are working on installing the last stormwater project at the Palm Avenue roundabout.
The crews then will be working to install irrigation and landscaping around the roundabouts before laying the road and asphalt.
Brick paving in the roundabouts will be completed before the intersections are striped and opened to the public.
The closing of Ringling Boulevard from Orange Avenue to U.S. 41 in December was supposed to allow construction crews to work faster and get the roundabouts complete by May 15. But Gaines said the crews were met with a 30-day delay when they discovered remnants from an old railroad that once stretched down Ringling Boulevard were buried under the road. A dilapidated brick stormwater receptacle also had to be rebuilt.
The goal with the roundabouts is to improve traffic flow through downtown by replacing a traffic signal and a four-way stop.
Ringling Boulevard and the roundabouts can’t open soon enough for Burns Square Business District merchants, who were essentially cut off from the rest of the downtown from Orange Avenue to U.S. 41.
“We knew it (the construction) was coming, but we had no idea how bad it was going to be,” said Nancy’s Bar-B-Q founder and partner Nancy Krohngold.
The restaurant, which sits right on Ringling Boulevard on the edge of Burns Square, has a direct view of pipes, dirt and loud construction noises that come right up to the back door of the restaurant.
“It’s been a significant decrease in our business,” Krohngold said.
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